Why Does Gray Hair Turn Yellow? 7 Tips to Avoid This

In this article, we'll explain the reasons why gray hair turns yellow, as well as some tips to avoid this problem.
Why Does Gray Hair Turn Yellow? 7 Tips to Avoid This
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

The health of the hair depends to a large extent on the condition of its cuticle, which provides flexibility and elasticity. However, this layer can be affected by various factors, such as heat applied by equipment (flat iron or hair dryer), as well as elements present in hair dyes. That’s when gray hair turns yellow.

In these cases, the scales may separate or flatten, giving the hair a frizzy or weak and brittle appearance. In addition, when the cuticle is damaged and the cortex is exposed, it loses moisture, dehydrating the hair and leading to the appearance of hairpins.

At a certain age, from 50 or perhaps even a little earlier, most people will have white hair. Others may have all their hair. However, there are cases in which gray hair turns yellow without knowing the reason for it.

Here’s why this happens, as well as some tips on how to prevent or fight it.

Why does gray hair turn yellow?

For one thing, the amount of melanin decreases with age. First, the hair turns gray, then white. Of course, this varies from person to person and, apart from age, can depend on factors such as stress and genetics.

In fact, some people already have gray hair before the age of 30.

However, it’s common for gray hair to turn yellow due to certain external factors that affect the cuticle, modifying its structure. One of these is exposure to the sun, which contributes to the oxidation of eumelanin, causing it to lose its color.

Similarly, sunlight can alter the composition of fatty acids or lipids, which are found between the scales. Thus, when these are oxidized, the hair acquires a slight yellow color, which is more noticeable in people with gray hair.

A very important factor, already mentioned, is the heat of the hair dryer or straightening iron. These elements not only dehydrate the cuticle, but also soften it and alter its structure. Do not forget that in dry hair the scales are open, so they can absorb any substance.

On the other hand, there are chemicals present in shampoos and hair conditioners that contribute to the appearance of this problem. In some cases, substances such as silicones adhere to the hair, accumulating on the cuticle and making it less transparent.

It also occurs as a result of the mineral salts present in the chlorine in swimming pools and even in the water that comes out of the faucets and shower. This causes an alteration of the lipids between the scales, causing them to lose transparency.

The same situation occurs with the ingredients in hair dyes, including sodium hydroxide, ethanolamine, guanidine, ammonia, and ammonium thioglyconate. These can cause cracks in the cuticle, with the aforementioned effects.

Although it may not seem like it, gray hair also turns yellow even because of smoke in the environment, whether from smoking or burning, as well as other pollutants suspended in the air.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: 4 Reasons Why You Might Get Gray Hairs When You’re Young

7 tips to prevent gray hair from turning yellow

We have already known the reasons why gray hair turns yellow. So what we can do to combat the problem or avoid it, is to keep the hair cared for and clean, through the following tips.

1. Moisturize your hair

To avoid losing moisture, the hair must be properly hydrated. This can be done with natural oils such as jojoba oil, borage, or macadamia. You can also do this by applying shampoos and conditioners with glycerin or hyaluronic acid.

According to research, the addition of hyaluronic acid was found to improve the strength of biopolymer films in hair care cosmetics.

2. Use protein and vitamins

When gray hair turns yellow, it’s a sign of nutrient-deficient hair. To help repair it, we can resort to shampoos or preparations (masks) based on proteins, as well as vitamins, including A, C, and B5 (panthenol), which protect against the effects of environmental elements.

3. Maintain a slightly acidic pH

Another point that is noted for strengthening cuticles is that hair products used should have a slightly acidic pH , between 4.5 and 5. This contributes better to ensuring that the cuticles remain closed.

4. Avoid certain ingredients

Avoid products with ingredients such as those mentioned above (sodium hydroxide, guanidine, ammonia, etc.). Instead, products with mild surfactants such as taurates, betaines, glycosides, or sarcosinates should be used.

5. Apply antioxidant products

Flavonoids protect the hair from the effects of solar radiation. Filters can be added to shampoo or use natural products such as green tea, aloe vera, or ginkgo biloba, which according to research has a high antioxidant potential.

6. Protect your hair from the sun

In addition to the above, it’s necessary to avoid continuous exposure to the sun. Hair that lacks melanin is more sensitive.

Among the precautions to protect yourself we can highlight the following: use umbrellas, hats, or caps; and preferably, do not go out during the hours when solar radiation is more intense.

7. Use shampoos with pigments

To recover the color of white hair and neutralize yellow highlights, you can also apply shampoos that produce dark coloring. Preferably those with natural pigments. To do this, you can use plants such as rosemary.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Here are the Myths and Facts About Gray Hair

Remember: Healthy hair looks healthy

When gray hair turns yellow, it’s a sign of a hair health problem, as it happens, in large part, due to the weakening of the cuticle. So this is something we need to address, and not just for aesthetic reasons.

Of course, since the cause can vary, the ideal is to see a hair specialist. First, you should with a dermatologist, and then with a stylist. Then, make sure to always follow their recommendations.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Neveux, S., Smith, N.K., Roche, A. (2017). Natural compounds as occult ototoxins? Ginkgo biloba flavonoids moderately damage lateral line hair cells. JARO, vol. 18, 275–289. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352612/
  • Sano, M., Mayama, H., Nonomura, Y. (2023). Friction dynamics of human hair treated with water or cationic surfactant aqueous solution. J Surfact Deterg., vol. 26(2): 185– 193. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsde.12634
  • Sionkowska A., Kaczmarek B., Michalska M., Lewandowska, K. & Grabska, S. (2017). Preparation and characterization of collagen/chitosan/hyaluronic acid thin films for application in hair care cosmetics. Pure and Applied Chemistry, vol. 89(12). https://doi.org/10.1515/pac-2017-0314
  • Soon Park, J. (2021). Analysis of antioxidant efficacy of ginkgo biloba leaves and acer palmatum leaves. Turkish Journal of Computer and Mathematics Education (TURCOMAT), Vol. 12(6). https://doi.org/10.17762/turcomat.v12i6.2074

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.